Refilwe Tholakele’ s late strike handed the Mares an advantage with a 1-0 win over Namibia in first leg of the 2020 Olympic games preliminary round match played under floodlights at the National Stadium on Friday.
The locals put on a very dominant performance in front of a fair crowd with coach, Alex Malete becoming the youngest African coach to lead an international team at just 29 years.
The home side showed their intentions early into the game, missing two glorious chances inside the first 10 minutes. Thuto Ramafifi failed to direct her header goal-ward as it went wide on the fifth minute before Refilwe Tholakele also headed wide two minutes later as the Mares looked threatening on the wings.
The visitors were put under pressure for majority of the half session, as Edcleisingh Naris nearly hit her own net in an attempted headed clearance from Tholakele’s free kick on the 34th minute.
The Mares continued to search for an opener. On the break, Ramafifi delivered a teasing cross into the box but Lesego Radiakanyo headed over the bar as the teams remained goalless at the break.
Just four minutes into the second half, the home side continued where they left off. Kesegofetse Mochawe on the left wing dipped a low cross into the box, but Tholakele’s shot was denied by the keeper fingertips save. The visitors had their first shot at goal on the 55th minute.
The Mares defence was caught napping and unmarked inside the box, Zenatha Coleman was superbly denied by Sedilame Bosija. Namibia came close again on the 64th minute, this time around from a set piece but Bosija was once again up to the task to deny Esther Amukwaya.
The home side eventually got the winner with four minutes to time as Tholakele gave them the lead with a thunderous strike, beating keeper to the top corner.
A minute later, Coleman nearly spoiled the party, but Bosija tipped the shot over the bar as the home girls bagged a vital home win. The return leg is set to be played tomorrow (Tuesday) evening at the Sam Nujoma stadium in Namibia.
“We were exceptional today. This came down to our preparations before the game. We watched video tapes of their previous games; we beat them on the wings. We will be playing the away game on Tuesday. They are forced to get a ball and we will respond. I am not saying we will sit back, but we can defend for the whole year if we have to,” Malete told journalists after the match.
His counterpart, Brian Isaacs was an unimpressed man but was optimistic for the return leg. “I’m very disappointed in my team, Botswana did not give us time and space on the ball and we did not play combination football. We couldn’t connect passes and this put us under pressure,” he said.
Botswana: Bosija, Veronica Mogotsi, Bonang Otlhagile, Masego Montsho, Mochawe, Golebaone Selebatso, Radiakanyo (Thuso Leseane), Balotlhanyi Johannes, Ramafifi (Esalenna Galekhutle), Tholakele, Nondi Mahlasela (Boitumelo Gammu)
Namibia: Mellissa Matheus, Lovisa Mulunga, Tina Kakuta, Esther Amukwaya, Naris, Anna Marie Shikusho (Millicent Hikaum), Lorraine Jossob (Beverly Uuezia), Julia Rutjindo, Memory Ngonda, Thomalina Adams (Twelikandjele Amukoto), Coleman
Botswana 1 (Tholakele 86th)